Nursing home coronavirus infections, deaths surge

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Nursing homes across the country have been in lockdown for weeks under federal orders to protect their frail, elderly residents from coronavirus, but a wave of deadly outbreaks nearly every day since suggests that the measures including a ban on visits and daily health screenings of staffers either came too late or were not rigorous enough.

Recent outbreaks in Tennessee, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland have pushed the death toll at the nation's nursing homes to at least 450 and highlight the biggest gap: Screenings of doctors, nurses, aides and other workers do not involve actual testing but the taking of temperatures or asking health questions that still allow infected, asymptomatic people to slip through.

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"It's still been like Swiss cheese with people coming in and out of there, and thus you've got these explosions in senior facilities," said John BaRoss of Long Valley, New Jersey, who recently pulled his 85-year-old mother out of an assisted-living center out of fear of infection.

After an outbreak of 100 infections and four deaths at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing outside Nashville, Tennessee — where the National Guard was called in to help evacuate the facility — Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt blamed staff members who came to work despite showing symptoms for COVID-19 and "exposed a lot of patients."

A health care worker leaves Cedar Mountain Post Acute nursing facility in Yucaipa, Calif., Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

"Things got out of hand," Holt told the Associated Press. "Once employees became symptomatic, they should have asked them to go home immediately and called the health department. I don't think that occurred."

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After an outbreak near Dayton, Ohio, killed six people and infected nearly 50 at a pair of nursing homes less than 10 miles apart, health officials began scrutinizing medical specialists such as phlebotomists and respiratory therapists who work in multiple facilities a day. One such health worker who visited both homes tested positive for COVID-19.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said an outbreak that spread like "wildfire" at a Mount Airy nursing home, killing five and infecting 77, apparently began with an asymptomatic health worker who made it past a temperature check screening and "infected the population."

Some relatives of those at the Sundale nursing home in Morgantown, West Virginia, where 29 residents and staff have tested positive, say more should have been done to keep coronavirus out before the federal restrictions took hold in mid-March.

In this March 29, 2020, photo provided by Courtney Templeton, her mother, Sharon Templeton, who tested positive for COVID-19, smiles through her room window at Sundale nursing home in Morgantown, W.Va. (Courtney Templeton via AP)

"The day before the shutdown, we just walked in wherever. There was no sign-in. There was nothing," said Courtney Templeton about her last visit to her 69-year-old mother.

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Templeton also faults the home for not testing residents fast enough and not keeping healthy ones separate from those just back from a nearby hospital showing COVID-19 symptoms, including her mother’s roommate.

"She came back coughing and had a fever," Templeton said of a visit two weeks ago, after which she began begging the home to protect her mother. "Can't you keep the incoming patients separate? Can't you keep them quarantined for 14 days?"

Last week, Templeton got word both the roommate and her mom had the disease.

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Though the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, an AP tally from media reports and state health departments indicate at least 450 deaths and nearly 2,000 infections have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.

And for the nation’s more than 15,000 such facilities and the 1 million people who live in them, experts say the situation could get worse before it gets better.

They say the crisis has only deepened a chronic staffing shortage at nursing homes because more workers are self-quarantining or staying home with their children. There is still not widespread testing of staff or patients, and shortages of masks and other protective gear persist.

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"It's an emergency situation, and it's just been totally neglected in all the national policy," said Charlene Harrington, a professor emerita at the University of California San Francisco and former state health official. "They're not focusing on the fact that these are the most vulnerable of people in the whole country."

Multiple residents of Lakeland Health Care Center, a nursing home in Wanaque, New Jersey, have died of COVID-19, according to the borough’s Mayor Dan Mahler. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

And even more ominously, overcrowding in hospitals has some states seeking to force nursing homes to take patients who are recovering from COVID-19, raising fears they could spread it to residents inside.

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New York issued a statewide advisory last week forbidding nursing homes from denying residents admission "solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19," California told its nursing homes to make similar preparations. Massachusetts announced plans to designate specific nursing homes as care centers for COVID-19 patients — a move that has set it apart from other states.

"Sending hospitalized patients who are likely harboring the virus to nursing homes that do not have the appropriate units, equipment and staff to accept COVID-19 patients is a recipe for disaster," said Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association.

Federal directives on nursing home coronavirus prevention followed the nation’s biggest outbreak in one place, the deaths of 40 at the Life Care Center nursing home near Seattle. A government inspection found infections at the home and others nearby were likely caused in part by employees working while sick.

A March 13 order from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says nursing homes should immediately halt visitors and nonessential workers, cancel communal dining and group activities, and actively screen residents and staff for fever and respiratory symptoms.

But the order did not mandate regular testing of staffers, which nursing home providers and advocates say is not possible or practical because of the limited availability of tests and delays in getting results.

“In an ideal world, would everyone have been screened with COVID tests? Of course. But this is all we could do,” said Kathleen Hill O’Neill, a nursing home consultant and instructor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The restrictions have done little to slow the daily drumbeat of new infections.

In New Jersey, an entire nursing home relocated its residents after two dozen were confirmed infected and the rest were presumed to be. Seven died and more than 40 were infected at a nursing home in suburban Richmond, Virginia. Two died and at least 57 were infected at a nursing home east of Los Angeles. And on New York’s Long Island, a retirement community has so far suffered eight deaths in two weeks.

“Coronavirus in a nursing home is like fire in dry grass,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week.

To be sure, infections of all kinds in nursing homes are a chronic problem, killing 380,000 every year. But an AP review of federal inspection records shows some facilities suffering outbreaks were given low “star” rankings for overall quality even before the coronavirus crisis. Three homes in Ohio and Illinois got two out of five stars, as did the one in Gallatin, Tennessee, where an inspector last year found an unsupervised cart in the hall where a resident scooped out ice with her bare hands.

For relatives of those in nursing homes, the visit ban has literally put them on the outside looking in, communicating with parents and grandparents through windows or by smartphones. Their greatest fear is that their loved ones will be left to die alone.

“When someone loses a loved one, you can’t go and give them a hug,” said 80-year-old Rosan Jordan, a resident of a retirement and nursing facility in New Orleans where her husband was among 13 to die of COVID-19 last month.

Even though she was in the same home, Jordan was kept apart from her husband and could only speak with him near the end on FaceTime.

“I should have known that was the last time I’d be talking to him,” she said. “I hope it was some comfort to him to hear my voice.”

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Coronavirus hurls Manhattan housing market into deep freeze

New York Gov. Cuomo: We are not built to be isolated for long periods of time

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The Manhattan real estate market came to a screeching halt at the end of the first quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp slowdown in March after a red-hot start to the year.

Such a sudden stop has only happened twice in recent history – following the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, according to Jonathan Miller, CEO of the New York-based real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel.

Miller says that median home prices in Manhattan saw respective peak-to-trough declines of 25 percent and 30 percent surrounding the September 11th attacks and the failure of investment bank Lehman Brothers. The majority of those drops were recovered within a year.

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“This time, one aspect of it is different," Miller told FOX Business. “Putting all the human tragedy aside and just looking at the housing market, after September 11th there was a September 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th. And every day that passed got further away from that demarcation line. The problem we have right now is we don't know how long this goes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused New York State to issue a “stay-at-home” order and to enforce social-distancing guidelines. Because real estate was deemed “non-essential,” many Manhattan buildings are not allowing showings or open houses.

The deep freeze comes as the Manhattan real-estate market was finally moving past myriad headwinds, including the SALT tax and a number of other taxes, like the mansion tax, that has been a force over the past two years. The mansion tax was a flat 1 percent surcharge on homes worth $1 million or more that was changed to a progressive tax as high as 3.9 percent on homes valued at more than $25 million.

There had been a noticeable uptick in the number of open houses and prospective buyers making offers in early 2020, giving brokers hope that an active spring selling season was on the horizon.

Helping drive demand were ultra-low mortgage rates, which were hovering around 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed loan as tracked by Freddie Mac.

A dip in prices was another factor: The median sales price fell 1.4 percent from a year ago to $1.06 million in the first quarter, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

That sparked a flurry of sales activity, which propelled a 13.5 percent year-over-year surge in closings and led to an 8.4 percent drop in inventory.

“What started off as a great quarter literally came to a screeching halt with this virus,” Steven James, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City, told FOX Business.

The longer the virus sticks around, the more the damage to the economy, and the more the damage to the economy, the more damage to the housing market

He said the number of contracts signed at his company rose 31 percent year-over-year in January, adding everything is now at a “huge standstill.”

While the median sales price slipped, the average sale price fell at a steeper 10.9 percent from the previous year, to $1.89 million, reflecting shifts at the high end of the market.

The full extent of the damage caused by COVID-19 is still unknown as the most recent data has a two- to three-week lag, meaning there was a minimal impact in the current numbers.

James expects to see “pent-up demand unleashed” once New Yorkers are able to return to their normal daily routines, buoying prices.

Miller was less optimistic.

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“The longer the virus sticks around, the more the damage to the economy, and the more the damage to the economy, the more damage to the housing market,” he warned.

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Hyped Malaria Drug Not Showing Much Effect at One Paris Hospital

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Hydroxychloroquine, the malaria medicine that some doctors have been trying as a treatment against Covid-19, hasn’t shown encouraging results so far at France’s Pitie Salpetriere hospital.

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“We’ve used it a fair bit because it was one of the hopes,” Eric Caumes, head of infectious diseases at the Paris hospital, said on BFM TV. “But we don’t have the impression that there’s spectacular efficacy. It’s even probably not effective.” Caumes said he would have more formal data around the end of the week.

U.S. President Donald Trump touted the medicine as promising to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, fueling optimism and prompting some hospitals to stockpile it, but there’s no conclusive evidence that it works against the new coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine showed promising results in one small study in France, but its methodology has been challenged. In another small trial in China, the drug was no more effective than conventional care.

For now, “we have more studies showing it doesn’t work than studies showing it does,” Caumes said.

Pitie Salpetriere was rated France’s best hospital in a 2020 Newsweek ranking.

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Doctor Drops Some Coronavirus Truth Bombs On Fox News, Lights Up Twitter

A doctor’s no-holds-barred analysis of coronavirus testing shortcomings is going viral ― not just because of his blunt talk but because of where he made his case: live on Fox News.

Dr. Rishi Desai, chief medical officer of the Osmosis website, vigorously shook his head “no” as Fox News host Martha MacCallum mentioned, as President Donald Trump has, that there were supposed to be millions of tests available. She also said people were still waiting for a quick test for COVID-19. 

Desai responded with a fact-check.

“Yeah, they’re working on it,” he said. “They should’ve been working on it for months.”

Desai noted that the World Health Organization had issued a warning about the virus on Dec. 31, 2019. 

“We knew coronavirus was coming, we knew that it was a respiratory disease, we knew it was person-to-person,” he said. 

Yet it’s only now that the FDA approved a 15-minute test and even it has shortcomings. Then, Desai explained how South Korea was able to get ahead of the situation by testing early and often. 

“Look at what South Korea did, and what we did,” he said. “Their population is one-sixth of ours. Look at the cases they have. Look at the mortality they have. It’s a trifle compared to what we’re dealing with right now because we’ve had a very weak response and they had a really strong response.”  

MacCallum wrapped up the segment: 

In the longer interview on the Fox News website, Desai also called for a nationwide shutdown. 

“We would see a drop off in cases within two weeks,” he said. “Within two weeks, the number of cases would start to fall, and the entire country would breathe a sigh of relief.” 

Desai quickly found a new fanbase as his name trended on Twitter: 

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Sony Establishes $100M COVID-19 Global Relief Fund

Sony Corp said today that it has launched a $100M fund to support those affected by the coronavirus. Titled the Sony Global Relief Fund for COVID-19, the electronics and entertainment giant’s pledge will provide assistance in three areas: individuals engaged in frontline medical and first responder efforts to fight the virus; support for children and educators who must now work remotely; and support for members of the creative community in the entertainment industry.

With the new fund, Sony joins other entertainment and media companies such as Netflix which has pledged $100M to help workers hardest-hit by the outbreak in the television and film industry. Facebook has also said it will give $100M to small businesses in more than 30 countries in an effort to boost the global economy, and is working with the World Health Organization to remove fake news about the virus from its platforms.

Sony said that across the creative community such as music, pictures, games and animation, together with its group companies, it will seek ways to support up-and-coming creators, artists and all those in professions supporting the industry who have been impacted by the cancellation or postponement of concerts and live events, or the shutting down of film and TV productions.

In terms of medical support, $10M has been earmarked for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund at the World Health Organization which is powered by the UN Foundation and Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, as well as Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist medical workers and others on the frontline of response efforts. The Tokyo-based conglomerate will also work with its external partners to explore ways that it can support activities that prevent the further spread and contribute to treatment of COVID-19.

In the area of education, where children are losing education opportunities as a result of school closures, Sony will explore ways to leverage its technologies in support of education activities, and cooperate with educators to implement these measures.

Sony also said that its roughly 110K employees worldwide will be able to provide their support through a matching gift program.

Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony Corp President and CEO, said, “Sony extends its condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and extends its sympathies to all those who have been impacted. In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community.”

Going forward, Sony added it will work together with its partners and stakeholders to explore ways to further extend the initiatives.

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Coronavirus pushes Boeing to offer early retirement, buyouts

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Boeing CEO David Calhoun, in a wide-ranging interview, addresses production disruptions and plans to support the company throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

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Boeing Co. is expected to begin offering early retirement and buyout packages to its workforce as the plane maker comes to grips with the coronavirus pandemic’s deepening toll on the global aviation industry, people familiar with the matter said.

An internal announcement was expected as soon as early Thursday, one of these people said.

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The Chicago-based aerospace giant is the largest U.S.exporter and one of the nation’s largest manufacturing employers. It has previously announced steps including a freeze on hiring and overtime as it seeks to preserve cash amid turmoil in the credit markets and a broader economic downturn.

Boeing’s airline customers and some of its suppliers have already sought to cut labor costs—with measures including layoffs and voluntary leave without pay—as the pandemic wreaks havoc across the air-travel and aerospace industries.

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Boeing, whose workforce numbers approximately 160,000, hasn’t announced any layoffs, even after cutting and then suspending production of its 737 MAX jet in January and assembly of most wide-body planes last month.

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Almost 65,000 of its employees build commercial aircraft, and a further 25,000 work in the unit that provides spares and services to airlines.

Executives have said they were seeking to avoid layoffs as they sought taxpayer help to ease its financial strain and plan for a recovery.

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Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun has said he wants to prepare for when the crisis abates. “I have to keep my workforce in place and we have got to be ready when the recovery comes,” he said last week in an interview on Fox Business Network.

Boeing sought at least $60 billion in government aid for itself, its suppliers and the broader aerospace sector. The company hasn’t said whether it will seek loans under a $2 trillion stimulus package approved in Washington, D.C., last week. Some of the aid would come with restrictions on layoffs.

As the pandemic worsened in March, Boeing suspended its dividend and temporarily halted production at its Everett, Wash., factory north of Seattle.

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Its share price doubled last week as investors bought on expectations that government aid would ease a liquidity squeeze, but has fallen sharply in recent days as analysts warned that more airlines may seek to cancel orders or be unable to take new planes.

Write to Andrew Tangel at [email protected]

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Trump May Limit Flights; China Hid Outbreak Extent: Virus Update

U.S. stocks slid and Asia futures dropped as concerns mount about the economic toll of the virus. American intelligence officials concluded that China concealed the extent of the outbreak there.

New York and New Jersey said their deaths have doubled in the past three days, while Florida’s governor ordered residents to stay home after weeks of rejecting calls to do so. President Donald Trump said his administration is weighing whether to halt flights from some of the hardest-hit cities.

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France and Spain reported their deadliest days. Italy and Germany moved to extend lockdown measures. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would ask all arrivals from overseas to undergo 14 days’ quarantine.

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Trump Weighs Domestic Flight Restrictions (6:55 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said his administration is weighing whether to halt flights from some of the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak -- including New York and Miami -- but is wary of further harming the airline industry.

“We’re certainly looking at it but once you do that you really are clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed,” Trump said at a White House press briefing. He didn’t specify what scale of flight restrictions he was considering, or which cities would be affected.

Pentagon Seeks 100,000 Body Bags for Civilians (5:21 p.m. NY)

The Pentagon is seeking to provide as many as 100,000 military-style body bags for potential civilian use as the U.S. warns that deaths could soar in the coming weeks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested 100,000 body bags, known as Human Remains Pouches, through an interagency group that directed it to the Defense Department. The Pentagon is looking into buying more bags and will draw some initially from a stockpile of 50,000 it maintains, according to two people familiar with the request.

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UN Climate Conference Postponed (4:36 p.m. NY)

A United Nations climate conference scheduled for November in Scotland has been postponed as the virus spreads and lockdowns make it difficult to hold talks leading up to the event. The summit, called COP26, had more than 26,000 expected attendees.

Putting off the conference is another setback for climate diplomacy after last year’s gathering in Madrid ended without an agreement on a framework for a global carbon market. This year, countries were due to present updated and more ambitious greenhouse-gas emission goals for the first time since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

N.Y., N.J. Deaths Double Since Sunday (3:45 p.m. NY)

The Covid-19 mortality rate in New York rose to 2.3% and 1.5% for New Jersey. Fatalities in New York reached almost 2,000 and passed 350 in New Jersey, where the numbers of infected are rapidly increasing.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy warned his state would need more space for the dead soon, and New York has begun moving patients from overtaxed New York City hospitals upstate. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that even after the state passes the expected apex in April, deaths will continue to be high well into July.

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WHO Says Countries Need Strong Leadership (3:14 p.m. NY)

Countries must set comprehensive strategies to fight the coronavirus, communicate them clearly and stick to them, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said at a press briefing Wednesday in Geneva.

Medical workers and the population need consistency, which requires commitment and guidance from politicians, businesses and religious leaders, he said.

“We need to be very careful not to knee jerk,” he said. “We need to be very careful not to be changing policies every single day.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he is deeply concerned about the rapid escalation of Covid-19 cases, as the death toll has doubled in a week. WHO is evaluating broadening the use of masks even among those who aren’t ill. It currently recommends masks be worn by sick people and their caretakers.

France Reports Deadliest Day, Continued Rise in Cases (2:45 p.m. NY)

France reported 4,032 hospital deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday, up 509 from Tuesday and its biggest increase since the outbreak began. The country is working on a system to report both deaths in hospitals as well as those in other places like retirement and nursing homes. Confirmed cases rose 9.3% to 56,989.

Florida, Pennsylvania Issue Stay-at-Home Orders (1:38 p.m. NY)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he is signing a stay-at-home order for the state. DeSantis said the order would go into effect Thursday night, and that it would be similar to guidelines in Miami-Dade County.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also expanded a stay-at-home order to cover the entire state. Separately, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice postponed the state’s Democratic primary to June 9 from May 12. Fifteen states and Puerto Rico have also delayed primaries due to the virus.

South Africa’s Restrictions Slow New Cases (1:20 p.m. NY)

South Africa’s early attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including travel restrictions, enforced quarantines and a ban on large gatherings, appear to be have paid off, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The number of confirmed infections in the country rose to 1,380 on Wednesday, an increase of 27 from the day before. There have been an average of just 42 new cases a day over the past five days.

Mkhize warned that the country may not have a true picture of the size of the problem -- it has conducted just 47,541 tests on the population of 59 million -- which was not nearly enough. South Africa, which has instituted a 21-day lockdown, plans to ramp this up using 67 mobile testing units, he said.

China’s Jia County in Lockdown After New Cases Reported (12:40 p.m. NY)

Jia County in Henan province is under lockdown from April 1, with all residents required to wear masks and have temperatures checked when entering and leavind compounds. Henan had gone 30 days with no new cases of Covid-19 until three doctors in Pingdingshan, in Jia County, were diagnosed with the virus though they were asymptomatic.

China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Says (12:15 p.m. NY)

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak there, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.

China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete, they said. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.

Wimbledon Tournament Canceled (12 p.m. NY)

The Championships 2020 will be canceled due to public-health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic, according to a statement Wednesday by the All England Club and the Committee of Management of The Championships. It will instead be held from June 28 to July 11, 2021.

After extensively considering all scenarios, the tennis tournament’s organizers “believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships.”

New York’s Coronavirus Patients Skew Young (11:55 a.m. NY)

Younger adults in New York City are being hospitalized with Covid-19 infections at surprisingly high rates, said doctors treating them, undermining assumptions about who’s most at risk from the coronavirus.

For months, the message from authorities had been that older people were at the highest risk. It was a belief so strongly held that health officials took to chastising people in their 20s and 30s to stay home — not to protect themselves, but to avoid transmitting the disease to older populations.

Germany Extends Lockdown By Two Weeks (11 a.m. NY)

Germany will extend the nationwide lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus for another two weeks until April 19.

A little over a week after banning gatherings of more than two people, the government continues to ask Germans to avoid contact with people outside their own households, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.

“It’s far too early to now begin considering loosening contact restrictions – we’re still far from where we want to be,” Merkel said, adding that the government wants to revisit those measures after Easter.

Drugs Trump Touted Added to Shortage List (10 a.m. NY)

Drugs for malaria and certain autoimmune diseases that President Donald Trump touted as Covid-19 treatments have been added to the Food and Drug Administration’s shortage website.

Some patients who took the medications for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other disorders before the coronavirus pandemic are now unable to fill prescriptions. Demand surged after doctors overseas said they had seen some signs that the drugs could be used to treat Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

U.K. to ‘Significantly’ Increase Testing (9:25 a.m. NY)

The U.K. plans to “significantly” increase testing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Wednesday. The government has faced criticism over why the U.K. is lagging behind countries including Germany on testing.

“A clear instruction has been sent to all NHS hospital trusts that where there is capacity available, it should be used on frontline NHS staff,” Slack said. “It is our intention to significantly increase the number of tests that we’re carrying out.”

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s lockdown measures may have already reduced the spread of the coronavirus, according to a study. A survey of 1,300 people showed that the number of interactions they’d had with others in a single day was 70% lower than the average from a study done in 2005-2006, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said in the report.

Putin Holds Remote Meetings After Handshake With Doctor (8:05 a.m. NY)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun holding meetings remotely from his residence outside Moscow after being exposed to a doctor who was later diagnosed with coronavirus, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday on a conference call. Peskov said on Tuesday that Putin is regularly tested and is fine.

Putin on March 24 shook hands and chatted with the doctor, Denis Protsenko, who is the chief of Moscow’s main coronavirus facility.

Foxconn Assures Investors 5G IPhone Can Still Launch This Fall (7:53 a.m. NY)

Apple Inc.’s most important manufacturing partner reassured investors it can still get the latest 5G-enabled iPhones ready for an autumn debut. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which makes most of the world’s iPhones, told investors it’s lost time to travel restrictions and other disruptions caused by the pandemic. But with months to go before the first trial assembly lines start in June, Hon Hai can still make the deadline, investor relations chief Alex Yang said on a private conference call hosted by Goldman Sachs.

— With assistance by Kara Wetzel

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Despite coronavirus pandemic, McDonald's a good bet for investors, firm says

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Fast-food giant McDonald’s remains a good bet for investors even as U.S. restaurants contend with a slowdown in business due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a prominent equity research firm.

The rapid spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, has forced McDonald’s and various other U.S. businesses to substantially scale back operations. While the changes will impact foot traffic in the short term, McDonald’s is well-positioned to recover from the financial strain, Baird Equity Research said in a note to investors on Wednesday.

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“Among the companies in our coverage universe, we consider MCD among the best positioned to manage through the highly uncertain demand backdrop being caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Baird analysts said in the note. “Specifically, MCD appears to have plenty of liquidity to support its franchisees as they work through short-term sales and cash flow issues, and history suggests the McDonald's brand contains recession-resistant qualities that should allow for better-than-average fundamental performance in [the second half of 2020 and 2021].”

Coronavirus has already had a significant impact on McDonald’s global business. The fast-food giant shuttered stores in some European markets, including the United Kingdom, France and Italy, as part of its efforts to manage the crisis.

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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
MCD MCDONALD’S CORP. 158.17 -7.18 -4.34%

Last month, McDonald’s said it would limit service at company-owned stores in North America to drive-thru, walk-in and delivery orders and temporarily shutter seating areas. Franchisees were advised to enact the same protocols.

Several other food chains, including Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A, have enacted similar measures as U.S. authorities encourage social distancing practices.

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Baird noted that McDonald’s will have a projected cash balance of nearly $7 billion as of the end of the fiscal first quarter, providing a reserve to help franchisees until it can return to normal business. The recent passage of a government stimulus package is expected to provide further relief.

The war chest puts McDonald’s on a path to rebound even if the U.S. economy falls into a recession, according to the firm.

“We believe MCD is well-positioned to perform strongly on a relative basis in this scenario when considering global comps for McDonald's during 2008-2009 were a recession-resilient +5.4% (best-performing brand in our coverage universe),” Baird said.

McDonald’s shares are down more than 20 percent this year and closed at about $158 on Wednesday. Baird set a $184 price target for the stock.

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California Owes Motion Picture Home $24,000 In Forgotten Funds; In Desperate Time, Lot Of Money For The Taking Needs Only To Be Claimed By Hollywood

EXCLUSIVE: At a time when every segment of our industry is struggling with layoffs and furloughs because of the coronavirus pandemic, the $9.3 billion owed to many that is just sitting there in a California state Unclaimed Property fund might well come in handy.

The state of California owes the Motion Picture & Television Fund $24,025 – money the MPTF could sorely use right now in its efforts to provide assistance to the industry’s suddenly unemployed workforce, while itself dealing with the first COVID-19 outbreak at its skilled nursing facility in Woodland Hills.

The money owed is part of the State Controller’s $9.3 billion Unclaimed Property fund, which includes some 48 million separate accounts. The money held in more than 100 MPTF accounts includes forgotten checks, savings accounts, dividends, accounts payable, and commissions that were turned over to the state after sitting idle in banks for more than three years. The eight largest MPTF accounts hold more than $16,000.

“The Controller is safeguarding millions of unclaimed properties for Californians,” Jennifer Hanson, press secretary to State Controller Betty Yee, told Deadline. “From an account that sat dormant for too long, to a final paycheck that never got picked up, people should check to see if any of those properties belong to them. In challenging times, even a small find could make a big difference.”

Because accounts can be spread out over various – and often incorrect – versions of a business’ name, they can be difficult to locate on the Controller’s searchable database. The MPTF’s unclaimed funds are listed under 13 different permutations of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, including those with and without the ampersand, and one under MPRF – the acronym for the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which was the name of the fund when it was founded in 1921.

“We have property-owner advocates to help groups locate multiple properties,” Hanson said. “They’re here to help.”

Businesses can get assistance locating and applying for unclaimed funds here.

Many of the industry’s other charities and non-profits also have money sitting in the Unclaimed Property fund as well, gathering dust – and no interest. Among them:

• Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation has an uncashed cashier’s check for $1,000
• The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (misidentified in the searchable database as the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation) is owed $2,702 in dividends
• The Sundance Institute has $5,000 in accounts receivable
• Women In Film is owed more than $4,000
• The Entertainment Industry Foundation is owed $3,000
• The NAACP Image Awards is owed $2,500
• The Mary Pickford Foundation is owed $1,500
• The American Film Institute is owed $1,350
• The Actors Fund is owed $228
• The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is owed $750
• The Motion Picture Association is owed $5,400
• The Television Academy is owed more than $1,000
• The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is owed more than $1,600

Many of Hollywood’s guilds and unions are also owed money that they could use now as they offer dues relief to their members during the industry’s coronavirus shutdown.

SAG-AFTRA is owed more than $100,000, including an uncashed cashier’s check for $26,139. The union’s pension and health plans are owed more than $5,000. SAG-AFTRA has more than 300 accounts, but none under the name SAG-AFTRA. They’re either listed as SAG, or AFTRA, or SAGAFTRA without the hyphen, or the Screen Actors Guild.

To get an idea of how long some of this money has gone unclaimed, the long-defunct Screen Extras Guild, which the old Screen Actors Guild absorbed in 1992, is still owed $2,088 – money that now rightfully belongs to SAG-AFTRA and its members. And the pre-merger AFTRA pension and welfare fund is still owed more than $5,000. AFTRA and SAG merged in 2012.

Other industry unions owed money include:

• WGA, more than $30,000
• American Federation of Musicians, more than $8,000
• DGA, more than $5,000
• Actors’ Equity, $700

Various IATSE locals also have money coming to them. The Welfare Trust Fund of IATSE Local 857 – representing Los Angeles’ treasurers and ticket sellers – is owed $2,586. IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco has an account with $3,033 in it; another with $1,200, and its health and welfare fund is owed $1,500.

Here in L.A., Stagehands Local 33’s pension plan has a $1,076 court settlement that it hasn’t picked up for at least three years. The IATSE National Health & Welfare Fund has four accounts totaling $1,576.

The networks, studios and major talent agencies are all owed money as well. Deadline found $8,500 in one Walt Disney Company account, and $7,000 in another. Disney has more than 100 separate accounts – some for as little as 2 cents, but many with hundreds and thousands of dollars in them. UTA has $12,000 in uncashed vendor checks, and an unredeemed $900 cashier’s check.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has about 50 accounts, mostly small, but one containing 623 shares of Trans World Entertainment, which has been sitting unredeemed for at least three years. Three years ago, the stock was worth $21,182 at $34 a share. Today they’re worth 1/10th of that at $3.40 a share.

Major charitable organizations and non-profits like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, the United Way, March of Dimes, the City of Hope, GLADD, Planned Parenthood, the American Red Cross, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Habitat for Humanity, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are owed tens of thousands of dollars that in these historic times could be put to good use.

The state is also holding money for millions of individuals: there are 308,682 separate accounts just for people named Smith. Most are in small amounts – some only pennies – leftover refunds and the like. This reporter is owed $40, but the Controller’s office is holding a $10,000 cashier’s check for director Steven Spielberg.

Click here to see if the Controller is holding money in your name.

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Ken Griffin’s Virus Plan Now Includes Emergency Trading Site in Florida

Citadel Securities this week opened an office in Florida to help ensure billionaire Ken Griffin’s giant trading firm can continue at full capacity during the coronavirus pandemic — and cope with the explosion in volume the illness has spurred.

The firm opened a new, temporary trading floor in Palm Beach on Monday with 24 people, according to a memo from the firm to employees seen by Bloomberg. The market maker debuted the facility two days before Florida’s governor announced a stay-at-home order for the state of 21.5 million.

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The site -- with capacity for 50 -- is part of a hotel property that’s closed to the public, and the staff, who have been dispatched from Chicago and New York, will work and sleep there, according to the firm. The move followed an initial business-continuity plan that involved splitting the New York group into a new space and adding a temporary office in Greenwich, Connecticut. Government measures to limit the outbreak have shifted thousands in the financial industry into work-from-home mode or to backup locations.

“This effort reflects our deep commitment to delivering on the liquidity needs of our clients through all conditions,” Chief Executive Officer Peng Zhao said in the note.

In the memo, released by Zhao and founder Ken Griffin, the firm said the Florida “staff will remain onsite to minimize the potential risk of any team members contracting the virus.”

For Citadel Securities, one of the world’s largest trading firms, the need to keep its traders and sales force at full operational capacity comes amid heightened client demand. Record swings in stocks, Treasuries and currencies have prompted other trading firms to pull out of markets -- siphoning off liquidity.

Palm Beach County is part of the South Florida region that’s been the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, which risks becoming increasingly deadly because of the area’s concentration of older residents. The announcement from Governor Ron DeSantis came days after President Donald Trump said his guidelines for Americans to practice “social distancing” would remain in place until at least April 30.

Citadel Securities, a separate company from Griffin’s hedge fund Citadel, has its two main offices in New York and Chicago -- regions that have been hit hard by virus cases and that are already operating under stay-at-home orders.

Amid the turmoil, the firm is handling more business. Its notional trading volume in Treasuries has risen 70% above typical levels, the firm said. In equities, volume in March was more than double 2019 monthly averages, and daily activity in currencies jumped about 122% compared with the first two months of the year.

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The firm, one of the largest liquidity providers in U.S. equities, is also focused on ensuring its ability to make markets in shares for retail clients, after the government removed penalties on early withdrawals from retirement accounts.

Citadel Securities built the infrastructure necessary for the Florida facility in less than a week and began trading there when U.S. markets opened Monday.

— With assistance by Jonathan Levin

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